November 28 2006
Hermann Gmeiner Prize 2006 goes to midwife from Indonesia
27/11/2006 - On 24 November 2006, Witnowati from West Java, Indonesia, was awarded the Hermann Gmeiner Prize 2006 in a festive ceremony at the SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy in Innsbruck, Austria.
"Witnowati brings light to the world by supporting women and newborns. She has managed to set up her own small practice with modest means. First, 10 women a day came to her garage, today an average 50 to 80 women seek help there. I am impressed that Witnowati is still living in a modest wood hut with her family behind the practice; all money goes to her centre." These were the words SOS Children's Villages President Helmut Kutin used to thank Witnowati, who supports the people in the mountains of Lembang with her midwife practice.
The 32-year old midwife was awarded the Hermann Gmeiner Prize for her effort to provide care to the women and children of Lembang. There is no medical care at the rambling town with its 70,000 inhabitants. Although the next town is only 25km away, the people of Lembang are rarely able to go there as they do not have the means of transport and the money.
"In many areas of Indonesia, death rates among mothers and children at childbirth are still very high as the midwives usually do not have any training and apply traditional, often unhygienic methods. However, the poor people cannot afford the cost for treatment at a hospital", Witnowati explains. "They often send for me because of womb displacements caused by violent pulling in traditional midwifery. In such cases, I have to evacuate the young mother as quickly as possible; otherwise she would bleed to death. In order to help patients without any means get hospital treatment I co-operate with doctors who have a heart for the poor. Thank God there are still a few like those around, which means patients only have to pay for care and drugs. I then continue treating them at my practice as soon as possible. "
Witnowati was born in a poor, remote village to a family of farmers. She arrived at SOS Children's Village Lembang when she was eight, undernourished. There, she would grow up with two of her brothers. "Suryanigsih was to become our new mother. She educated us in a spirit of love and understanding. She made us learn about moral values and life outside the SOS Children's Villages." After having completed secondary school, Witnowati continued training at the nursing school of the Protestant Immanuel Hospital.
During those three years she received a scholarship which meant that she worked for another three years at the hospital after having graduated. Given her outstanding performance, Witnowati was offered one year of training as midwife paid by the hospital. Soon after, she met her future husband, with whom she is bringing up four children. His support made it possible to set up her first midwifery practice - a simple garage - in Lembang: "There was a desperate need for a freelance midwife. Through my practice, I was able to really help the people. I am on duty every day of the week, and I am always ready to see a patient, also during the night, no matter how far away that is from home. I go by moped, if possible, but many times I have to walk steep, untravelled paths up and down the hills."
Three years ago, Witnowati took another step in making her dream come true. She and her husband sold all their assets (consisting of 20 cows) and bought a 1,000 sq.m. property to set up a midwifery centre. Currently, three employees and another midwife are working there to provide care to people from the neighbourhood.
"My goal is to build a small hospital one day, where we have all the necessary equipment and where people can afford to get treatment. This is how I hope to be able to help even more people in the future. I hope that one day there will not only be a Hermann Gmeiner Academy in Innsbruck, but also a Hermann Gmeiner hospital in Lembang." The EUR 15,000 prize money that comes with the Hermann Gmeiner Prize is another stepping stone towards making Witnowati's dream come true!